Dangerous combination

Blood test shows Diana's driver combined anti-depressants, alcohol

The Associated Press

PARIS - Princess Diana's driver ingested a dangerous cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs, prosecutors said Wednesday, a combination doctors say can cause drowsiness, trouble concentrating and impaired vision.

A third blood test to determine the alcohol level of driver Henri Paul detected fluoxetine - the antidepressant best known as Prozac - and tiapride, used to prevent aggression and treat alcoholism.

Side effects of Prozac can include shaking, anxiety and impaired vision. Both medications can cause shaking, anxiety and drowsiness when combined with alcohol. "Prudence in the use of these medications is normally recommended to drivers," the prosecutors' statement said.

A report by the first policeman at the scene of the crash that killed Princess Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver Aug. 31 provided new details Wednesday about first aid efforts and the behavior of photographers who had been chasing her.

The policeman, who was on patrol nearby, says right after calling for help he was alerted by a witness that Diana was in the car. Rescuers tried to keep Diana "conscious as much as possible, by talking to her and tapping her on the cheek" and asked "me to keep her head straight," the officer wrote in his report, which was seen by The Associated Press.

The photographers were "virulent, pushing, while continuing to take photos, deliberately preventing help from being given to the victim," the report said.

The photographers' behavior and the driver's condition are two focal points of the investigation.

Tiapride mixed with alcohol likely to cause side effects. Prozac wouldn't necessarily worsen the effects of alcohol, but tiapride would, said Dr. Michel Cratlet, a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of alcoholism.

"At this level of alcohol intake, the risks came from the use of alcohol," Cratlet said. "But the fact he took medicine with alcohol could have impaired his vision, reduced his concentration and diminished his vigilance."

The prosecutor's statement said the fluoxetine was found at a "therapeutic" level - the dosage a doctor might prescribe - but did not specify the quantity. The tiapride was at a level considered less than therapeutic - closer to over-the-counter strength.

The blood test confirmed two earlier tests that showed Paul's blood-alcohol level at 1.75 grams per liter of blood - more than three times the legal limit. Such a level is the equivalent of nine quick shots of whiskey; in the United States, it would translate as a blood-alcohol level of 0.175.

Only Fayed's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash. He has been in intensive care ever since, although the hospital said Wednesday his condition was improving.

"He has recovered his consciousness but is still unable to speak," and still requires intensive pulmonary care, the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital said.

Media interest high in France

Media interest in Diana's death has not subsided in France, where new details are being reported daily.

Le Parisien on Wednesday quoted an unidentified doctor as saying Diana murmured, "Leave me alone, leave me alone," while in the mangled Mercedes, seconds before an oxygen mask was placed over her face. The tabloid said photographers were taking pictures inches from her face when she spoke what it called her last words.

However, three lawyers in the case who have seen the police file told The Associated Press that no doctor or rescuer interviewed by police has said Diana spoke after the crash.

Fayed's family blames photographers for the crash, and has maintained that Paul, who had worked for the Ritz Hotel since 1986, was a reliable employee and not a big drinker. Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, owns the hotel.

But Jean-Louis Pelletier, a lawyer for one of the photographers, said Wednesday that Paul bore responsibility.

"(Al Fayed family lawyers) may try to throw up smoke screens, to push in various directions. For me, alcohol, antidepressants, excessive speed ... in any other case than this particular one, the driver - had he survived - would be prosecuted and punished and punished severely," Pelletier said.

Some reports say Paul, 41, was driving as fast as 120 miles per hour at the time of the crash.

Nine still detained in crash

Nine photographers and a motorcycle driver detained in the crash are under investigation for manslaughter and failing to assist accident victims, a crime in France.

The policeman indicated in his report that photographers resisted attempts to clear them away, and flashes went off like "machine guns" as the paparazzi took pictures from the rear and side of the car.

It quotes an unidentified photographer as saying to the officer: "You're ticking me off. Let me do my work. In Sarajevo, the cops let us work."

Judicial and police sources have indicated there is not much evidence that photographers directly contributed to the crash, and instead appear to be focusing on the charge of failing to aid victims - a charge that lawyers for the photographers say won't hold up in court.

If convicted under France's "Good Samaritan" law, the photographers could receive up to five years in prison and be fined up to $83,000.

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